Comic Picks By The Glick

Marvel’s War on Tradewaiting

September 27, 2012

I was planning on writing up my thoughts on vol. 22 of “20th Century Boys” (it’s coming this weekend, honest), but then I went and read this over at Bleeding Cool.  $25 for four issues of “Uncanny Avengers?”  Even after the Amazon discount you can count me out of that.  I know it’ll be discounted once the collection hits softcover, but this is unreal.  As Rich points out, it comes to $6.25 an issue for what was originally a $4 comic.  So if you’re a dedicated tradewaiter like me, why not go out and buy the single issues for this one?  Well, while I’ll admit that Rick Remender and John Cassaday make a hell of a team, the comic would have to be really goddamn good to justify those prices.  If not “Garth Ennis’ ‘Punisher MAX’” good then at least “Nextwave:   Agents of H.A.T.E.” good.  Not only do I not think that’s likely, it also seems like another step on the company’s path to pricing its comics line out of existence.

Let me just say that it’s easy to see why Marvel is doing this:  they want more people reading the single issues.  If they can convince a few tradewaiters to do just that then selling the first hardcover volume of “Uncanny Avengers” at this price point will have been a success.  Will I be doing it?  I’m going to commit myself to a strong “HELL NO!” even after it comes out in softcover.  $20 for four issues of content?  It’ll have to be a pretty hefty Amazon discount to make that work.

This also runs right up against my own personal feelings for how much these things should cost.  Years ago (back in the mid-aughts) it used to be that a trade paperback collecting six issues of a Marvel comic used to run you $15.  Don’t believe me?  Go and check out the price for the softcover of “New Avengers:  Breakout.”  (And get off my damn lawn while you’re at it!)  Then it slowly rose to $15 for five issues, $16 for four, and even more permutations since until we get to “Uncanny Avengers.”  I realize that continuing to buy these titles in the face of rising prices also makes me part of the problem, but more often than not the quality usually balances things out.

Now I am as dedicated a tradewaiter as you can get.  To the point where if Marvel wants me to buy copies of “Uncanny Avengers” in single issue form, then the only way they’ll get me to do it is to NOT COLLECT THEM.  I can’t say exactly how I developed this complex, but it likely stems from the spotty intake of single issues I had back when I started to really get into comics.  As I’d never be certain about whether or not I’d see the next issue, I’d always hope that the issue I read ended without a cliffhanger.  Trade paperbacks didn’t have that problem and so my collection has been built almost exclusively on these over the years.

So when I hear that it’s going to get even more expensive to continue my collection in this fashion, there’s only one step to take:  Wait Harder.

When I had my “Jonathan Hickman week” a little while back, two of the comics I reviewed -- “Ultimate Comics Hawkeye” and “Ultimate Comics Thor” -- weren’t bought directly through Amazon.  By going through some of their “featured sellers” I was able to get the books for less than $9 each even with shipping factored in.  That’s the kind of price I consider appropriate for something which only collects four issues worth of comics.  Or, at least for a B-list title anyway.

You see, Marvel seems to really like putting things in four-issue collections these days.  I paid a bit more than that for the first volume of Kieron Gillen’s “Uncanny X-Men” as I did for two more titles that arrived this week, vol. 15 of “X-Factor” and “Wolverine:  Goodbye, Chinatown.”  Now, even though it’s still painful to pay these prices even with a discount I’ve been buying both titles for a while and can count on Peter David and Jason Aaron to deliver the goods.  By keeping the price so high for “Uncanny Avengers” I’m resistant to even getting started with the title.  How do they expect it to get its hooks in me if I don’t read it?

However, these latest volumes of “X-Factor” and “Wolverine” also spotlight another annoying trend with Marvel’s collected editions:  the padding out of their page counts with useless extras.    When you get to the end of the issues collected in these particular volumes you’ll notice that there’s still a whole bunch of pages left... which are made up of a script reprint in the former and an issue’s worth of penciled pages from the latter.  If you like that stuff, more power to you.  However, I consider the previews appended to each volume of “Irredeeemable” and “Incorruptible,” as well as the creator commentary in “Invincible” to be better added value.

Where does this leave Marvel?  With what they hope is going to be the biggest-selling single issue of the year.  They’re going all-out with the variant covers and subsequent incentives to make sure that this topples issue #100 of “The Walking Dead” and shows that the floppy format still has some life left in it.  That they’re trying to convince the tradewaiters to jump onboard too just shows that they’re leaving nothing to chance.  Of course, if this is the new standard then how will it affect sales of the actual collection?  By getting more people to read the single issues, will they see a corresponding rise in trade sales?  Do they see that the first volume of any series always sells the best and are raising prices accordingly with the intent to lower them on later volumes?  Will readers see this as one gigantic stunt to gouge them and we’ll see this title selling in five digits by the fourth issue?

All I can say right now is that there is no way you’ll get me to buy that comic at that price.  Not when the first seven issues of “Thief of Thieves” retails for $15.  Not when the first volume of Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staple’s “Saga” will be selling for $10.  Hell, the second volume of “Journey Into Mystery” collects six issues for $16 and I’m left wondering how the hell it managed to get out of Marvel with that cover price.  What I’m saying is that there are better deals out there for everything.  Sometimes it may be for different comics (possibly better ones), but if you wait long enough eventually you can find the price for the comic you want that is right for you.  Maybe it’ll be at your local comic shop, or from an online retailer, or even at a convention, but you can always find the right price if you wait long enough.  With “Uncanny Avengers” Marvel has thrown down the gauntlet of higher prices and I’m going to respond by Waiting Harder.

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